Solar Panel Cleaning
The Mojave Desert has long been prime real estate for solar farms due to the vast expanse of open landscape, the high levels of sunshine that can be harnessed and the proximity to some of America’s greenest areas.
There is a 3,500-acre solar farm in the desert that is capable of producing vast amounts of green electricity, but only when conditions are optimal.
Issues with dust and dirt have threatened the effectiveness of this site, to the point where engineers are looking into the potential of using drones in cleaning sites.
Solar farms are magnets for dust and need an effective cleaning solution to maintain efficiency
The problem with this sunny, empty landscape is that it is also incredibly dry. This means that dust clouds can build up in bad weather and the solar panels are often found with a film of dirt over them.
Not only is this a constant headache for all those that are responsible for maintenance, but it can also be a potential disaster when it comes to generating electricity.
This layer of dirt can limit the efficiency of the cells and fine particles can clog up the electronics. Thankfully, a German engineer has come up with a way to use drones to deal with the problem.
These solar-panel-cleaning drones are essentially a step up from a design for a panel-cleaning robot that Ridha Azaiz designed as a teenager.
These drones are smaller, more agile and more than capable of dealing with the constant problem. They have a series of brushes on board to wipe away the dirt and can be flown from panel to panel with minimal human intervention – unlike the robots that had to be continually carried and placed on each one.
This is a great alternative for those that work at the plants because they can carry out a massive cleaning effort of the whole area without having to leave the control room.
These solar panel cleaning drones have plenty of benefits that are sure to attract investors
The benefits of turning to drones go further than simply eliminating the need for exhausting human labor.
Regular cleaning with these drones could also increase the efficiency of the panels by allowing them to produce 35% more power, they reduce the need for water – which can be expensive and difficult to locate in the desert – and they are a much safer solution.
The additional problem with robots was that they had wheels and suction cups that could damage the surface of the panel. Here the only contact comes from the brush, so there is less risk of scrapes and scratches.
Using drones in cleaning sites at solar farms is the way forward
There are high hopes for this drone because of its potential over other options – self-cleaning panels are still problematic and the drones are clearly better suited to the job that the robots.
Aziz is continuing to test the drones in Chile and hopes to sell them to plants via this company, Aerial Power, within a year.
These accessible solar farms are the perfect entry point for Aziz’s product, due to the simplicity of the operation and regulations, but there are hopes to expand into populated areas in the future.